The end of World War II did not bring peace at home. Nuclear anxiety, anti-Communism and international political realignments fueled the Cold War and turned our country's media landscape into a battleground. In the press, on the radio, and increasingly through the newly emerging medium of television, business and labor struggled for power over the national consciousness. Seeking a prize worth much more than public consent, these opposing forces fought to redefine the economic structure of the nation.
To most working people, postwar "normalcy" meant a final farewell to Depression-induced privation, access to consumer goods unavailable during the war years, and a redistribution of the economic pie through the newly powerful labor movement. To business, however, the end of hostilities promised freedom from New Deal liberalism. Corporations sought an end to planning and government influence, to communist, socialist and labor movements, and above all, shrinkage of the public sector, swollen in sixteen years of economic depression and war. Both sides characterized their points of view as patriotic and their opponents as un-American.
Business fought for influence through organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. Their intentions were presented as lofty and neutral: to educate Americans about our economic system and its benefits. Launching a giant propaganda offensive, these organizations pumped out press releases, published books, organized public and private meetings, bought advertising (for examples, see "The Pursuit of Profit" and "Freedom of Choice" supplements on this disc) and produced motion pictures.
One institution most anxious to spread the news about capitalism was the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, founded by the former chairman of General Motors. The Sloan Foundation funded a small institution (the pro-free enterprise, staunchly anti-Communist Harding College in Searcy, Arkansas, which hired John Sutherland Productions, Inc. as producer) to produce a series of nine "short cartoon films, in color, which would portray simple economic truths about the American system of production and distribution in an interesting and entertaining manner." A series of grants totaling $597,870 was made to Harding College, $150,000 of this contributed by the Maurice and Laura Falk Foundation of Pittsburgh. The films were intended both for showing in theaters, schools, at community group meetings and in workplaces, often at lunchtime screenings in factories. Ironically, this effort was made feasible by a Federal government initiative: the distribution of war surplus 16mm projectors to educational and nonprofit organizations.
There was nothing new about the idea of reaching working people on the job. As an idea, "luncheon movies" date back to the 'teens, when John Patterson of National Cash Register in Dayton, Ohio pursued what were then advanced media forms to reach NCR employees with messages of inspiration, training and control. During the Depression, companies undergoing union organizing campaigns took every opportunity to reach their workers with anti-union messages, morning, noon and night. As Business Screen (Vol. 10, No. 1, 1949) said, "During the war, 62% of large U.S. employers made use of incentive or employee attitude motion pictures. Today, that figure has dropped to 35%. Isn't it reasonable to believe that a mass return to employee film programs would help pave the way for smoother labor-management relations? And at 50c a year per employee, or even two or three dollars, wouldn't it be cheaper than a strike ending in a 12-1/2c an hour pay raise?" (See "Movie Day in Your Plant" in the Archive section on this disc.)
But Sloan's project was about more than smoother labor-management relations. Although the Harding College films purported to be relaxed, humorous explanations of how America's economy works, they sought both to discredit anti-capitalist ideas and explain why our system worked better than any conceivable alternative. Although the apparent collapse of socialism around the world in the late 1980s may make these films seem prophetic today, such ideas weren't taken for granted in the postwar climate.
Make Mine Freedom links patriotism with free enterprise and freedom with prosperity. "Working together to produce an ever-greater abundance of material and spiritual values for all. That is the secret of American prosperity." "Working together," of course, is a dishonest concept when used to describe communities whose interests differ.
Unlike such films as Greyhound's upfront patriotic lump-in-the-throater Freedom Highway (on The Uncharted Landscape disc), Make Mine Freedom employs a "stealth" strategy. Self-deprecating humor prevails, perhaps because the films were made to play before distracted and highly skeptical audiences, and the targets of this humor include our consumer culture and the dubious innovations it creates.
Specific ideologies, whether Communism, socialism, fascism or capitalism, aren't mentioned. Instead, "Isms" and "imported doubletalk" are mentioned dismissively. "Ism will cure any ailment of the body politic," claims "Dr. Utopia," just like an old-time snake oil salesman. "Ism" offers something to workers, manufacturers and politicians, and to farmers, well, "Ism even makes the weather perfect every day."
The salesman asks his audience to make this pledge: "I hereby turn over to Ism, Incorporated, everything I have, including my freedom, and the freedom of my children, and my children's children, in return for which said Ism promises to take care of me forever." This doesn't scare them. So onlooker "John Q. Public" urges them to get better acquainted with the enemy.
"Before signing up, you boys ought to try a little taste of Dr. Ism's formula to see what you'd get in exchange for your 'freedom.' Go ahead! Try it." They drink and are plunged into a totalitarian dream. Clamped inside the State's iron fist, the worker cannot strike and is no longer protected by his union. The manufacturer is now irrelevant. "No more private property. No more you!" the State says to manufacturer, kicking him out onto the street. The farmer is controlled through a central production plan and turned into an industrialized employee of the state. One courageous politician speaks up for freedom, but is quickly brainwashed, becoming "State Propaganda speaker 3120," a phonograph where his head should be, saying "Everything is fine!" over and over again.
The Sloan Foundation lets John Q. Public have the last word. "When anybody preaches disunity," Mr. Public says, "tries to pit one of us against the other through class warfare, race hatred, or religious intolerance, you know that person seeks to rob us of our freedom and destroy our very lives. And we know what to do about it!" In a hail of his tonic bottles, Dr. Utopia is chased away and flees towards a glowing city. Apparently John Q. Public didn't believe in the First Amendment.
Business Screen, the organ of the sponsored film industry, liked these films but warned employers to pull their punches. Ò...Many companies have initiated regular programs of noon-hour and off-shift film showings....This is by no means an invitation to propagandize. These voluntary employee audiences are fair-minded Americans whose interest and enthusiasm places a direct responsibility upon the program planner. The fact that movies have a favorable psychological effect in relieving boredom and strain is rewarding in itself. If a good film program can inculcate ambition and greater productivity to earn a deserving higher wage, that is certainly the desirable objective. Films are no substitute for a raise.Ó (Business Screen, April 1949).
But Roger Spottiswoode was much less favorable. In his review (included on this disc) he criticized Make Mine Freedom for its "hatred of foreigners, a contempt for their way of life, and an attempt to bigotry and intolerance at home." "The whole unpleasant dish," he stated, "is served up with a crude but appealing humor, calculated to lull an audience into a receptive frame of mind."
Labor fought business's media offensive through whatever means it could mobilize: its own press, radio programs, publications and union and community meetings. Unions produced a number of films that challenged corporate points of view, but these were not shown in theaters and on TV as the Harding College pictures were. Backed by business's economic clout, corporate messages were louder and successfully manipulated public opinion away from liberal and labor-oriented ideas and towards perspectives more harmonious with business.
Ken Smith notes: The first and best of the Harding College "Fun and Facts About America" cartoon series. A sleazy salesman tries to sell bottles of "Ism" to a union worker, businessman, farmer, and politician, promising them that they'll had everything they desire once they swallow it. And, incidentally, once they sign a paper giving up their "freedom". Great footage of a giant, hairy, green monster hand of "the state" grabbing these foolish Americans and subjecting them to all manner of indignities. Funded by Alfred P. Sloan, who knew about big fists.
GREAT anti-communist PROPAGANDA
entirely animation; ostensibly (scummy) patriotic film which shows us the capitalist good guys and the socialists who wish to enslave us all.
malt shop and couple dancing to jukebox; grandpa sleeping on front porch; family in church pews; man golfing badly; tycoons on Wall Street with big cigars; men sitting around Franklin stove; racially mixed classroom; man building skyscraper; two men verbally arguing; man mowing lawn; men in jury box wolf whistle at woman on the stand; man in convict's stripes in jail; ballot box; exterior of church; Statue of Liberty;
arguing between labor and management; snake oil salesman;
light bulb over man's head; man tinkering in workshop; man driving early automobile and crashing;
money: gold coin; greenbacks under the mattress and sack of money with $ symbol on it dug up from the ground;
how savings were used from family to buy tools and property: capitalism
racist caricatures of people of other nations and how they don't stack up financially to Americans in per capita income;
cloverleaf traffic pattern;
in socialist the government is symbolized by giant blue and moving pushing people around; man in barbed wire camp labeled state concentration camp #5.
"When anybody preaches disunity, tries to pit one of us against the another through class warfare, race hatred or religious intolerance, you know that person seeks to rob us of our freedom and destroy our very lives. And we know what to do about it." [At this point a mob brandishes bottles at "ISM" salesman threateningly; he begs for mercy; they disregard him and throw the bottles anyway. Cut to scene of the Lincoln Memorial and patriotic music.]
[Rick, I have never seen anything like this where the superego tells the mob to murder a socialist and the mob joins in happily]
Animation Cartoons Economics Capitalism Anti-communism Cold War
[This is one of a series of films produced by the Extension Department of Harding College to create a deeper understanding of what has made America the finest place in the world to live.]
[Harding College presents Make Mine Freedom, color by Technicolor. A John Sutherland Production. animated cartoons animation art cards title cards graphic design Statue of Liberty]
America is many things to many people. To a seventeen-year-old kid, it's the malt shop on the corner. To Grandpa, it's the front porch in the cool of the evening. To Mother and her family, it's church on Sunday morning. And to Dad, it's his favorite relaxation. [juke boxes jukeboxes jitterbugging dancing religion golf leisure recreation]
It's the cracker-barrel philosophers in Crabtree Corners and it's the tycoons in Wall Street. It's all races, creeds, and religions. It's freedom to work at the job you like, freedom of speech and to peaceably assemble.
Freedom to own property. Security from unlawful search or seizure. "Where's your warrant, flatfoot?" [lawn mowers bill of rights policemen]
The right to a speedy and public trial, protection against cruel punishments and excessive fines, the right to vote and to worship God in your own way. [wolf whistles blondes sexism prisons prisoners convicts ballot boxes voting elections padlocks churches]
It is these freedoms that have made America strong. "Okay, okay so we got our freedom, but management's lousin' up everything." "Labor is at fault. It's ruining the country." "My constituents, as your elected representative, I can assure you labor's right, management's right. [Statue of Liberty arguments dissension differences of opinion]
I'm strictly neutral." "Labor, management, politicians? Phooey! Well, they can't tell corn from oats." "Hurry, hurry - step right up folks. Here's the answer to your problems. Dr. Utopia's sensational new discovery - ISM. [farmers tonics nostrums arguments snake oil salesmen snake-oil quacks]
ISM will cure any ailment of the body politic. It's terrific. It's tremendous. Once you swallow the contents of this bottle, you'll have the bountiful benefit of higher wages, shorter hours, and security. Enormous profits, no strikes. Remember you're the big boss. Government control, no worry about votes. Name your own salary. Bigger crops, lower costs. Why, ISM even makes the weather perfect every day.
And now then, because we are introducing this amazing item for the first time in this country, it isn't going to cost you one cent. All you have to do is sign this little scrap of paper and you'll get your bottle absolutely free."
I hereby turn over to ISM Incorporated everything I have including my freedom and the freedom of my children, and my children's children, in return for which, said ISM promises to take care of me forever. "I'll take two bottles." [Dr. Utopia's Ism bulls agreements contracts nose rings noserings bullshit]
"Pardon me, pardon me." "And who are you, my good man?" "I'm John Q. Public." "Ah, my fine friend. You're just in time to share this generous and gigantic offer. Sign right here." "Hmmm, mind if I read it first?
Keep your shirts on, boys. Including my freedom - Freedom? Sign away my freedom? Why this is ridiculous!" "Don't be corny, brother. Ha, ha, ha, ha." "Sure our system of free enterprise isn't perfect, but before we throw it away for some imported doubletalk let's turn the clock back a few years to see what it's done for us.
For example back in the 1890's, Joe Doakes was just a guy who liked to tinker around his barn. Some people thought Joe was lazy. Some even thought he was nuts. But one day he had an idea. [Joe Doakes stable carriages craftspeople inventors creativity innovation]
And because he was free to dream his dream and tinker, Joe had a chance to make something of himself and his idea. So - [transportation motorized bicycles]
Of course some people didn't think so much of Joe's idea. But that didn't stop him. [accidents crashes]
So Joe got some money from young Aunt Minnie and Uncle Angus and Grandpappy and Mr. Titus. When Joe's friends and relatives used their savings to help him buy tools and property they were capitalists. [investors investments blushing embarrassment]
Don't blush, folks. It's nothing to be ashamed of. Now naturally, Joe needed some help. So he hired Willy Lumpkin who was out of work anyway, and before long Willy had the know-how and became skilled labor.
Because capital, management, and labor work together, Joe's idea grew. It grew and did things even he never dreamed of. Today the automobile industry provides millions of jobs that never existed before. [expansion growth factories signs]
And remember this is a story of only one industry. There are thousands more scattered all over the United States whose history of development is pretty much the same.
We've built a country under the American system that sends more young people to high school and college than all the rest of the world combined. [children]
Why even in the Depression our wages bought more food, clothing, travel, and entertainment than the wages of any other people in the world. Our country has a national income equal to the total national incomes of any other six nations in the world.
With only seven percent of the Earth's people, we drive seventy percent of the world's automobiles. That's just a sample of the things the capitalistic system has given us in only one hundred and sixty years. [freeways cloverleafs 160 capitalism land use highways interchanges]
Before signing up, you boys ought to try a little taste of Dr. ISM's formula to see what you'd get in exchange for your freedom. Go ahead. Try it."
"You can't do this to me. I'll strike." "The state forbids strikes. " "Wait 'til the union hears about this." "Ah yes, the union. Welcome to our ranks number 1313." [workers labor slavery iron fists]
"I'll take this case to the Supreme Court." "The state is the Supreme Court. Our decision is as follows: No more private property. No more you." [capitalists expropriation of industry giants giant fists]
"Well the farm folk'll put a stop to this." "Farmers don't vote anymore." "Well, what will they do for seed next year?" "You won't have to worry about next year. The state will do your planting from now on." [kulaks]
"We must fight to regain our freedom or everything is lost. Everything . . ." "Everything is fine. Everything is fine. Everything is fine. Everything is fine. Everything is fine." [State concentration camp 5. State propaganda speaker 1320 phonographs victrolas repetition]
When anybody preaches disunity, tries to pit one of us against the other through class warfare, race hatred, or religious intolerance, you know that person seeks to rob us of our freedom and destroy our very lives. [demagoguery demagogues]
And we know what to do about it. "Now gentleman. No violence please. Don't throw those bottles. Don't throw those bottles." [vigilantism mob action mobs riots Emerald City shining cities]
"Working together to produce an ever greater abundance of material and spiritual values for all. That is the secret of American prosperity." [The End. From sea to shining sea American flags Lincoln Memorial parades patriotism fife and drum]